Art Briles reacts to impending dismissal by Baylor

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

One week after Baylor suspended him with the intent to fire him,football coach Art Briles issued a statement saying that he has "made mistakes" but that he is "contractually obligated to remain silent" on the matters surrounding his dismissal.

In response to a scathing review of its handling of sexual assault allegations made against students, including several football players, Baylor's board of regents fired Briles, took the university presidency from Kenneth Starr and put athletic director Ian McCaw on probation. Since that day, Starr has also resigned as chancellor and McCaw has stepped down.

"After 38 years of coaching, I have certainly made mistakes and, in hindsight, I would have done certain things differently," Briles said in the statement. "I always strive to be a better coach, a better father and husband, and a better person.

"Keep in mind, the complete scope of what happened here has not been disclosed and unfortunately at this time I am contractually obligated to remain silent on the matter."

Briles said in his first public comments since the board's action that he has not seen the Pepper Hamilton report on which the board based its discipline. Starr had said the same thing while resigning his chancellorship on Wednesday.

"I can only assume that the report, which is not independent, supports the conclusions that the Board has already drawn," Briles said. "I hope to share with you what I was aware of as soon as I can so Baylor Nation can begin the healing process."

Also on Thursday, Baylor alumni, known as the Executive Committee of The Baylor Line Foundation, called on the Board of Regents to release the full Pepper Hamilton report, saying in a statement that "the Baylor Family deserves an unvarnished, complete accounting of the facts about how these events were handled."

Briles opened the statement by addressing the alleged victims of sexual assault and violence at Baylor.

"My heart goes out to the victims for the pain that they have endured. Sexual assault has no place on our campus or in our society," he said. "As a father of two daughters, a grandfather, and a husband, my prayers are with the victims of this type of abuse, wherever they are."

In the fall of 2015, Baylor hired the law firm Pepper Hamilton to review its past treatment of sexual assault claims. Outside the Lines reported in May that some Baylor officials, including coaches, knew about incidents of sexual assault, domestic violence and other acts of violence involving football players, but most players didn't miss playing time as punishment.

Two Baylor players accused of sexual assault were recruited by Briles after they were dismissed from their previous schools for off-field problems. In August 2015, former Baylor football player Sam Ukwuachu was sentenced to 180 days in jail after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a women's soccer player. Briles was criticized for accepting Ukwuachu as a transfer student after then-Boise State coach Chris Petersen dismissed him from the team for off-field issues. Ukwuachu's former girlfriend testified at his trial that he had struck and choked her when he attended Boise State.

Then, in April, former Bears star defensive end Shawn Oakman was arrested on a charge of sexual assault. A Baylor graduate student told Waco police that Oakman "forcibly removed" her clothes, forced her onto his bed and then sexually assaulted her on April 3, according to an arrest warrant obtained by ESPN. Oakman, the school's all-time sacks leader who wasn't selected in last month's NFL draft, told police he had consensual sex with the woman. Oakman had been dismissed from Penn State after he allegedly grabbed the wrist of a female store clerk.

The university's findings revealed that "Baylor did not consistently conduct due diligence" in vetting transfers in criminal or student-conduct matters. The university found that protocol was inconsistently applied with regard to "criminal background checks, request for records of any prior college disciplinary actions, and character reference screening forms."

Briles, 60, had eight years remaining on a 10-year contract extension that he signed in November 2013. Although Baylor, as a private school, hasn't released the details of his contract, it is believed Briles was making nearly $6 million per season, which would have made him the Big 12's highest-paid coach and one of the highest paid in the FBS.

According to Baylor's most recent IRS filing, Briles' base salary in 2014 was $4.2 million, which was considerably more than Starr's base salary of $789,000 annually as university president.

It is not known whether Briles has negotiated a buyout with Baylor. In most college coaching contracts, a university can fire a coach without having to pay the remainder of his or her contract if it has findings of cause.

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